Behind water and fragrance, glycerin is the third most frequently reported ingredient in cosmetics, according to a 2014 Cosmetic Ingredient Review.

Recognized as a major ingredient in moisturizers and lotions, buying and using glycerin in its pure form is growing in popularity.

Studies show that glycerin can positively affect your skin in a number of ways. Keep reading to find out how.

Glycerin’s appearance in skin care products appears to be warranted.

According to a 2008 study, glycerin can:

  • hydrate the outer layer of the skin (stratum corneum)
  • improve skin barrier function and skin mechanical properties
  • provide protection against skin irritants
  • accelerate wound-healing processes

Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a natural compound derived from vegetable oils or animal fats. It’s a clear, colorless, odorless and syrupy liquid with a sweet taste.

Glycerin is a humectant, a type of moisturizing agent that pulls water into the outer layer of your skin from deeper levels of your skin and the air.

In skin care products, glycerin is commonly used with occlusives, another type of moisturizing agent, to trap the moisture that it draws into the skin.

According to a 2016 study, glycerin is “the most effective humectant” in comparison with numerous others, including:

As a humectant, glycerin draws water from the nearest source. Especially in low humidity conditions, the nearest source of water is the lower levels of your skin. This can dehydrate the skin, even to the point of blistering.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to dilute pure glycerin before using it on your face and skin.

Many proponents of natural cosmetics recommend diluting glycerin with rosewater, as rosewater hydrates the skin and refines pores. A 2011 study found that rose had positive antioxidant effects on the skin.

A recent study found that a combination of glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and Centella asiatica extract improves skin barrier function for up to 24 hours after application.

Although there doesn’t appear to be many reported side effects, glycerin is a natural product, so there’s always potential for an allergic reaction.

If you experience redness, itching, or rash, stop using the product immediately. Look for an alternate product that doesn’t contain glycerin, and be sure to read the labels carefully.

In addition to being a humectant, glycerin is used as a:

  • hyperosmotic laxative (drawing water to the bowels to treat constipation)
  • vehicle for numerous pharmaceutical preparations
  • sweetening agent
  • thickening agent
  • preservative

Glycerin is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

Research suggests that glycerin can have a positive effect on your skin.

The skin on your face tends to be more delicate. In certain conditions, glycerin can dehydrate the skin, so consider diluting it with water or another agent.

If after applying glycerin to your skin, you notice any signs of an allergic reaction, such as itchiness or redness, stop using the product immediately.

Before using glycerin, check with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s a good fit for you and won’t interfere with any current health conditions.